In the second instalment of our eight-week Sci-MX challenge Sport360°’s Dan Owen and Alex Rea discuss the first parts of the training element of their programmes. Paired with two of the best in the business, they have been taken out of their usual comfort zones in order to hit those two-month goals.
Dan Owen @MyPropLife
As we mentioned in last week’s column, conditioning is really high on my priority list for the coming weeks. It’s time to get in shape for the upcoming rugby season, and given my year out of the game the main focus of this will be the capacity to keep working hard over an extended period of time.
My coach, John Britton, has programmed four gym sessions a week, and three conditioning. We will talk about the weights sessions next week, but first we’ll concentrate on what is getting my heart and lung capacity up – and making sure muscle groups can keep working under duress with the intensity I need for rugby.
John is the Head Coach and Manager at F45 Training in Motor City, a facility that runs functional, group training sessions six days a week, and will be my home for conditioning.
Far too often for cardio, I will have sat on a bike for half an hour, got a bit of a sweat on and that would do me. The truth is, cardio hurts. It can also be monotonous. Pain plus boredom is not a great combination for a good session.
F45 sessions are fast-paced, intense and you are constantly moving between stations meaning you never get used to, or bored, of a particular exercise. Each station is generally between around 30-55 seconds work, with a rest period of around 10-20 seconds. For a sport like rugby it’s perfect. A short hit of intense effort, a breather, and go again. And again. And again.
My first session was a shock to the system. With the powerlifting style of training I have done previously lactic acid is not really something I have had to contend with too much.
I quickly found the threshold was pretty low – especially in the quads.
Five sessions in and as John put it ‘I’m not dying as quickly’, which is a good thing. Heart rate in the sessions is now hitting around 150bpm, and I think it will go up as my capacity to push harder increases.
Sessions are actually fun, have a lot of variety and just looking at the other people in the session appeal to pretty much every demographic.
That’s the beauty of these circuits – you are pushed, but can ultimately work to your own pace, and see improvements quickly. I’m looking forward to seeing the progress in coming weeks.
Physique training is a daunting proposition because there are so many facets to consider.
From nutrition and calorie control, to lifting technique and training structure, it’s easy to be thrown off by the nuance of it all.
Thankfully, that’s where Aaron Agnew comes into the picture, helping to piece together what is quite a complex jigsaw. Aaron is a certified Exercise Physiologist and leading aesthetic bodybuilding trainer in the region.
Essentially, the Canadian is helping to drive the UAE’s fitness industry toward a much more professional space having experienced the highs and lows of stage competition himself.
Technically I’m pretty sound on most movements, and I’ve never seen the true value of a trainer.
However, that primitive way of thinking has changed. Before this challenge, my sessions were loose in structure, just a single bodypart per day, five times a week, with a sixth day working on a weak point.
Aaron has flipped the training on its head, designing a bespoke program with huge value.
To give you a snapshot, it’s double parts daily with cardio combined on four of the six days (split between HIIT and Stairmaster) with the intention of retaining muscle while trimming my bodyfat from 14 percent down to around 10 percent.
Naturally, nutrition is fundamental, but one of the most significant of Aaron’s philosophies is rapid tempo.
There are large compound lifts to spearhead the session before accessory work made up of super-sets and tri-sets. The key to this is rep-range and rest periods. To start, it’s a 2010 tempo (two seconds on the negative, one second on the positive) with 60 seconds in between each set and each exercise.
The time framework has been a huge shock to the system but already the benefits are immense – you only need to see the deluge of sweat pouring off me after each session.
The workout schedule looks like this: day one is a push day focused on chest, shoulders and core, day two is a pull session of back and biceps with 20-40 minutes of the
Stairmaster and day three is lower body and shoulder focused with a big emphasis on squat strength with HIIT. The week then loops back around again with active recovery on the seventh day.
It’s a completely new way of training for me, ripping up my previous mindset but with the tough work being done on nutrition, that’s a mental fortitude which is slowly being broken up.
More on that segment of the challenge next week.
Trainers’ top tips
Aaron Agnew (@AaronAgnew_DubaiFitness ) on health and fitness in Ramadan
1. Adjust the time of the day you are exercising
For your workouts you should train when you feel the most comfortable. You can try a few options and see what fits best.
Whether it is right before iftar, after iftar or before or after Suhoor. You should have some energy to train but not feel so exhausted or dehydrated that you put yourself at risk.
2. Try not to eat too much
Don’t go overboard eating before the sun rises. If you do, you will, as many people do, gain weight during this month.
Avoid the temptation to overeat during the evening meal and eat until you are reasonably full. There can be many social gatherings which may make it hard to not over consume. Be careful on eating too much sugar. Try to have balanced meals that are comprised of lean protein, healthy fats and complex slow digesting carbohydrates.
3. Drink water
You should maintain a normal level of hydration during Ramadan. Make sure you drink enough water prior to starting your fast but do not try to consume all your water in one sitting.
When the weather is particularly hot you may need more water than usual. Have a designated water bottle that you take with you when you go out, when you go asleep and at home.
Track how much water you are consuming and try to hit around 4L if you’re a man and 3L if you’re a woman.
John Britton (@johnmbritton) on conditioning
Sci-MX athlete John Britton is the Head Coach/Manager at F45 Training in Dubai Motor City – he is a national level weightlifter, ice hockey player, and lifts a lot of heavy stuff – as his Instagram shows here he offers some advice on improving conditioning.
1. It’s got to hurt
When focusing on conditioning the only way to improve is to push yourself as hard as possible. It really is that simple.
Now, we are not talking about pushing to the point of injury, but there has to be a lot of heavy breathing and a raised heart rate. This is often down to mindset and breaking through those barriers in order to improve.
2. Vary as much as possible
Conditioning work can be boring so it’s crucial to make the most of all the variables in your training. Now this can be anything from the amount of time you are
working, to rest period, weight increases, rep ranges, and the exercises themselves.
There’s so much to keep your sessions fresh. It is a huge element for us at F45.
We have more than 3000 exercises programmed into our different sessions meaning our members don’t get the same workout twice, which not only keep the body active but the mind too.
3. Don’t forget to rest
This is an element that people always underestimate. The perfect example is a runner who goes out every single day and does five to ten kilometres and wonders why they are not seeing any improvement in their times. It all comes down to rest. We have to allow the body time to recover. During this time we are recuperating and getting stronger and ready to go again. Make sure you are resting enough during the week to ensure the body is ready to work hard in each of
Sport360° duo Alex Rea and Dan Owen are not only colleagues, but training partners. They’ve now teamed up with Sci-MX Nutrition to embark on an eight-week fitness challenge, working alongside industry
experts to achieve two very different goals. Track their progress each week and see everything from training to nutrition and the lifestyle changes they will be making in search of success.
Dan Owen – @myproplife
When it comes to training, my regime has been pretty regular – lift heavy, lift often, avoid cardio.
I have been a five-day-a-week man when it comes to the gym – training bodyparts on separate days with a mix of heavy compound exercises and some lighter accessory work.
And to be fair, it worked. I’m strong. But on the flip side, slow, and have zero cardio.
All this became abundantly clear when, earlier this year, I returned to playing rugby after a twelvemonth hiatus. As a prop, my jobs are pretty simple – scrummage well, lift in the lineout, and work around the field hitting rucks and carrying a little in attack, and plenty of defensive involvement. It’s tough work, and even tougher when you’re fatigued.
When I joined Dubai Eagles in March I found myself able to scrummage pretty well with the strength built on a year of powerlifting and strongman-style training – but lacking in the ability to sustain the power and continue at a decent level for the duration of a game.
At 35, I am not getting any younger and want to be able to maximise my playing days – if I could get a couple of seasons playing at the top level in the UAE I’d be a happy man.
The key for me in the next eight weeks is firstly to greatly improve the cardio capacity, and my overall explosiveness – I have strength, we need to add speed of movement to that.
With an increase in cardio training, there is a risk I could lose a few pounds. Previously I would have been terrified at this thought but I’m now comfortable with that as long as the strength stays in tact – bulk is important in my position but if I can become a better athlete, a few pounds is neither here nor there.
This is an opportunity to get in the sort of pre-season shape I have wanted to for years – now it’s time to get it done.
Alex Rea @AlexReaFitness
Training has almost exclusively been a route to two main and rudimentary goals for me – to be strong and to look good.
Indeed, among the many who take up an athletic endeavour, the formative thoughts pointed to a very narrow-minded ambition but it is within the last 12 months training has begun to evolve.
Entering the final phase of my 20s, the ego has taken a back seat with learning and development the driving forces.
Now, the obvious problem is that there are a plethora of preachers, influencers and voices across the internet so plotting the right course is predictably difficult, especially when you’re balancing the pressures of a professional lifestyle.
As a result, the structure to training has been routine and pretty rigid, five days a week, minimal cardio aside from 11-a-side football with gym sessions mirroring Mr Owen in the form of training individual bodyparts on separate days.
Compound lifts form the fulcrum of training with accessory work complimenting but my approaches to both have been relatively counterproductive.
The more bodybuilding-focused movements are relatively short on tempo and rep-range while the lack of structure to deadlifts, bench press and squats has resulted in far too much ‘ego-lifting’.
Naturally, that’s led to severe injuries with a torn hamstring dogging much of 2018 and if there are three pillars of development I’m looking for during this eight-week challenge, it’s injury prevention, nutritional guidance and structure.
From a technique perspective, my lifts and movements are sound, but diet is typically poor, an offshoot of limited knowledge and simply not knowing what fuel my body requires to remain lean.
For me, this challenge is more about the process than it is the end result. Learning more about training and nutrition is crucial mentally, coming down to a low body-fat percentage while retaining muscle is the physical goal – I hope the combination of the two amounts to a more rounded version of myself.
Meet The Coaches
Sci-MX athlete Aaron Agnew is a WBFF pro body builder, a CSCS strength coach, and Dubai-based PT. The Canadian, also plays ice hockey, and is a lifetime-natural athlete. He will be working with Alex for the eight-week period
The key principles will be:
Tempo: Keeping reps high and rest periods low will mean the intensity of weight sessions is pushed to the max. Alex already has a strong physique so one of the keys will be keeping lean muscle mass while dieting and this will certainly help that.
Shocking the system: The way Alex’s program is laid out will mean he can train every body part twice per week, this will enable us to attack muscles from different angles and in different methods in order to get the lean, defined look we want.
Diet: The eight weeks will be about getting lean and allowing Alex’s muscle mass to really show through. This will be done through a strict diet that will see the calories drop as we progress. There will be lots of protein, lots of vegetables and salad, and relatively low carbs.
Sci-MX athlete John Britton is Head Coach/Manager at F45 Training Motor City – a high intensity functional training facility that is aimed at anyone looking to get in shape, move better, and improve their overall
condition. Like Aaron, he too is Canadian, and a hockey player and is a national-level weightlifter. He will be working with Dan on his goals.
The key principles will be:
Conditioning: We are going to be working on those things that really make you breathe heavily. This will be working on maintaining output over a period of time, and being able to maintain power.
Power: We have a strong base to work from so we are going to be adding in some explosive movements to work on power. Eight weeks is a short time in terms of strength building but there will be elements of week-on-week progression.
Get leaner: With the goals being based around sport we are not necessarily looking to lose weight – but doing so is not a problem. With added conditioning and a diet of eating good, natural foods there is the opportunity to get a touch leaner.
Fitbit has announced their latest fitness tracker, the Versa, is now available in the UAE.
The newest offering of the popular smartwatch has a redesigned dashboard delivering motivational messages, tips and tricks along with support to help users stay on track of their goals.
Other new health and fitness features include personalised workouts with Fitbit Coach, round-the-clock heart-rate tracking, over 15 exercise modes and an automatic SmartTrack swim, which works in water.
Now the lightest metal smartwatch in the Fitbit range, the Versa also boasts over four days battery life and cross-platform compatibility.
“We’re thrilled for consumers around the world to experience Versa, a beautifully designed smartwatch for all with advanced health and fitness features, access to our large global social network and smart features people find most useful at an approachable price”, said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit. “We believe Versa is a smartwatch that will have mass appeal, attracting new audiences and helping us capture a previously untapped segment of users in this growing wearables category”.
In terms of non-fitness related connectivity Android users can create and send up to five custom pre-populated quick replies of 60 characters or less to text and messenger apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Another new feature for woman allows females to track their menstrual cycle and symptoms giving a more complete picture of overall health and fitness in one place.
“The new features of the Versa will provide consumers with a lifestyle companion that caters to fitness needs and overall well-being support,” said Vincent Lamoureux, Director of New Markets of Fitbit. “It is designed to focus on fitness in addition to aspects relating to health, which will help consumers lead a holistic, healthful lifestyle. This is why we believe the Versa is the smartwatch for all.”
Versa also has smart features including the app, calendar, call and text smartphone notifications and access to Fitbit’s App Gallery.
Compatible across Android, iOS and Windows devices, it’s available at major online retailers for AED 899 in black with a black aluminum case, grey with a silver aluminum case, or peach with a rose gold aluminum case. Accessories range from AED 85 to AED 495. A Fitbit Versa Special Edition is available for AED 999 in a lavender woven band with rose gold aluminum case or charcoal woven band with graphite aluminum case, each with an extra black classic band.